Following major changes by Facebook to notifications, the news feed and other key communication channels, social game developers shifted more interest to finding users through third party channels last year. In response, Helsinki, Finland-based Applifer launched a toolbar that lets developers cross-promote traffic with each other — a “rebel alliance” for smaller developers versus the in-house toolbars that Zynga and other leading companies use to send users between their own games, as the company described itself last May.
The result: lots of developers joined (the company said it was reaching 55 million monthly active Facebook users as of last September) and new rivals emerged offering similar services. Today, Applifier is doubling down on its business, raising a $2 million round from a group of angels, and introducing a beta program for a toolbar that will promote games across the web.
For those not familiar with the details of how the service works, a developer embeds the toolbar at the top of their canvas application. The toolbar promotes other developers’ games on the Applifier network, and the hosting developer in turn has its titles promoted on others’ embeds.
Broken Bulb Studios launched Appstrip to do the same thing in August. Then monetization service provider Tapjoy (née Offerpal) bought it in November, and as of earlier this month had lured longtime client Zynga to use it as well.
That’s not the only competition. Digital Chocolate, which had joined the Applifier network last year, launched its own cross-promotion toolbar for developers in December. The other two companies give developers back 0.9 clicks for every 1 sent out, so part the new service, called the VIP Games Network, matches 1:1. While the other companies sell the 10% of clicks they keep, Digital Chocolate’s interest is in finding more paying game developers.
Applifier, then, was first to the Facebook platform with the idea, but now things are getting more crowded. It has been adding more features to compete, like retargeting last month. And its web effort is already off the ground.
“Applifier for web games is a pioneering effort,” founder and chief executive Jussi Laakkonen tells us. “We’ll find out if the same model works for free to play games outside of Facebook, there’s definitely pain as user acquisition can be 3-4x more expensive than on Facebook. It’s already live with over a good number of publishers and we are looking for more to join.”
With more than 100 developers who have participated, more than 50 million clicks generated, and 750 million impressions per day, Applifier looks well positioned for its next phase. Investors in this first round of funding include MHS Capital, PROfounders, Tekes, Lifeline Ventures, Jyri Engeström, David Gardner and Lars Stenfeldt Hansen.